Medicine: Reissues and Reunions

Medicine are perhaps best known as, “You know, the band that was in The Crow?”  However, to those in-the-music-snobbery-know, they are actually quite profound.  Pitchfork has said that they’re...

Medicine are perhaps best known as, “You know, the band that was in The Crow?”  However, to those in-the-music-snobbery-know, they are actually quite profound.  Pitchfork has said that they’re the closest thing to My Bloody Valentine to ever come out of America.  They’ve worked with Cocteau Twins members, been remixed by Billy Corgan, toured alongside The Jesus and Mary Chain, and pretty much established a role as the most prolific, yet overlooked, band that falls into the world of “shoegaze.”  Well, the last time their original lineup (vocalist Beth Thompson, guitarist/vocalist Brad Laner, and drummer Jim Goodall)  recorded an album together was 18 years ago. But, this Tuesday, August 6th, their fourth proper full-length drops on Captured Tracks, To the Happy Few.

The idea for the reunion of sorts came about a year ago, when Captured Tracks reissued the band’s first two LPs in “limited edition” formats.  Well, upon getting together in Brad’s studio with the intention of distributing the inflated, bonus-filled reissues, the three found themselves so comfortable together that they decided to record something that very day, which wound up being, “Daylight,” To the Happy Few’s final track.  The rest of the album was written and recorded at a casual pace throughout the next year.

Although “reunion albums” can be quite dicey affairs, especially with acts that music history still regards in a sincere fashion, Medicine’s latest is the furthest thing from a band two decades past its prime, boasting middle-aged people trying to produce something that merely wouldn’t make their twenty-something-selves shriek in shame… It’s actually quite good.  Although it’s not exactly where they left off, it’s not a million miles from it, while still maintaining an air of “not-trying-too-hard.”  To the Happy Few is a collection of noisy, psychedelic pop songs.  The beats are hard, the grooves are trippy, and the hooks are quite sugary.  I’ve been describing the sound as, “If Garbage were ‘A Tribute to Shoegaze.’”

The current state of Medicine is TBD, but they will be at the Music Hall of Williamsburg on August 16th, so snag the chance to see them, if you can.  I recently got a chance to chat with Brad Laner about everything surrounding their new album and what could possibly be expected of the trio in the future.

Izzy Cihak: To the Happy Few is the first thing you’ve done together in nearly two decades.  How do you feel it compares to your earlier releases?  Are you expecting fans to be surprised?

Brad Laner: I think it takes the old ingredients and completely recombines them into something recognizable as Medicine, but the end result is really quite different. It’s also leagues beyond the old albums in the vocals department. I definitely expect fans to be surprised. Honestly, I’m surprised that so many people seem to think it sounds like the old records and/or “shoegaze.”

IC: Has the process of writing and recording changed, compared to the first time around?

BL: The new songs were written and recorded leisurely, at home, bit by bit, as opposed to the old way of making demos, then trying to reproduce and improve on them in a “real” studio.

IC: Is there a particular track that you’re most proud of?  “Holy Crimes” and “Butterfly’s Out Tonight” are definitely some of my favorites of 2013.

BL: Thanks! Those are two of my faves as well. Very new territory for Medicine, so that’s very gratifying to hear.

IC: What were the album’s biggest influences and inspirations (musical or otherwise)?

BL: Mostly Brazilian music from the ’60s and ’70s: Milton Nascimento, Marcos Valle, Edu Lobo, all the Tropicalistas. Them and some of my faves from the Captured roster. I really adore Wild Nothing, Mac Demarco, and Chris Cohen. All of ‘em really. I love that you can hear each artist’s home recording techniques, since none of us record in “real” studios.

IC: I have to ask, what is it that inspired the album’s title?

BL: It’s part of a quote from Stendahl. Jim Goodall came up with it, just like he did with the old albums. To me, it’s an acknowledgment that we’re not making fast food for the masses.

IC: You have an upcoming show at the Music Hall of Williamsburg.  What can fans expect of the live show?

BL: It’ll be the three of us, plus our pal, Dale Jennings, on bass, kicking the shit out of the classics, both old and new (mostly old) for an hour and 10 minutes. I think it’ll make people happy. We’re really excited about it!

IC: You’ve said that you don’t have plans for a lot of touring in the near future, but what is the current state of Medicine?  Are you a band again? Was this a one-off thing?  Or are you yet to figure that out?

BL: The latter, although we have become a live band again by virtue of rehearsing for these few shows we’re doing. We’re not into touring endlessly (or even minimally, really). We’re not trying to “make it” or obtain any sort of success, beyond just getting the LP out (which was really the whole point of reforming). When we announced the LP back in April we had a few cool offers come in for shows, so we took them. If other cool things come up, we’ll consider it. But we’re just as happy to get back to writing and recording. In other words, people should come out to this show because I honestly don’t know if or when there will be another one.

IC: What are your plans for the immediate future, whether they have anything to do with Medicine or not?

BL: I have my third solo LP coming out in the fall on Hometapes and I may be doing some more things with M83. Other than that, it’s all Medicine all the time until it runs its course.

Band Interviews

During the day Izzy Cihak teaches transgression, subversion, and revolution at Temple University. At night he haunts Philthy's best venues to cover worthwhile acts for Philthy Mag. Morrissey is everything to him and, in their own heads, all of his friends see themselves as Zooey Deschanel.